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Lawrence Egerton
Lawrence Egerton
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Cobalt poisoning poses very real risk to DePuy hip implant patients

2 comments

Along with the pain, swelling, surgical complications and other problems facing DePuy hip implant patients, another serious health threat is cobalt poisoning, or cobaltism. Thousands of patients with these recalled hip joint replacements will require revision surgery to replace the device.

Arthroprosthetic cobalt poisoning, along with its own very serious effects, can cause metallosis, which damages tissue around the prosthesis and can make the revision surgery less likely to succeed.

In September 2010, a surgeon in Alaska published a case study of two DePuy implant patients who had cobalt levels in their bloodstream that were 100 to 500 times normal. He listed symptoms from cobaltism caused by the defective implant in these patients:

  • tinnitus
  • deafness
  • vertigo
  • visual changes
  • rashes
  • hypothyroidism
  • tremor
  • dyspnea on exertion
  • mood disorders
  • dementia
  • heart failure
  • peripheral neuropathy

The doctor, Dr. Steven Tower, advises that medical providers should ask patients with these symptoms if they have had a hip replacement, and if so what type. If they have, their cobalt level should be tested.

As it turns out, the doctor himself was one of the two patients in his study. This is his opinion on that circumstance: “In my case and in the case of my patient I believe that causality is proven rather than suggested. … That I was a subject of my own report suggests that cobaltism is not rare in metal-on-metal implantees.”

Dr. Tower also reported additional symptoms from four other cases he researched. They include mental inefficiency, poor concentration, fatigue, headaches, convulsions, peripheral paresthesias, weight loss, slowed nerve conduction velocities, heart failure with tachycardia, systolic dysfunction, interstitial fibrosis, nail changes, dysgeusia, and muscle atrophy.

You can read his report here.

Background of the hip recall

The hip implants in question are as the ASR XL Acetabular System and DePuy ASR Hip Resurfacing System. In August 2010, the DePuy Orthopaedics company, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, issued a voluntary recall of two hip replacement systems. DePuy stated that “13 percent of patients (1 in 8) who had received the ASR total hip replacement needed to have a revision surgery.”

With a faulty implant, as the ball and the socket of the metal joint rub against each other, friction scrapes off microscopic ions of cobalt and chromium. These particles enter the lubricating fluid that surrounds the implant. They also accumulate in nearby parts of the body, and flow through the bloodstream.

Protect yourself

DePuy has offered to cover “reasonable and customary costs of testing and treatment, including revision surgery,” and to reimburse patients for “reasonable out-of-pocket expenses.”

Obviously the damage that can potentially be caused by one of these defective devices is far greater than that. The severity of the health issues involved and DePuy’s limited offer of compensation mean you need the counsel of an expert hip-replacement attorney. The attorneys at Egerton Law can help.

More information from Egerton Law:

Further background.

Documents requesting access to your medical records (Which you should not sign.)

Why, after revision surgery, you must retain possession of your removed hip joint (explant).

The story of a lost explant.

2 Comments

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  1. RALPH LATER says:
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    Recently I had a hip replacement were my orthopedic surgeon used a Stryker Prothesis. Should I be concerned with any kind of metal
    poisoning?

    R.W. Later

  2. Ann says:
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    I have just found out i have colbalt in my blood after having a metal on metal hip replacement but it is not the ASR hip replacement but another hip De-Puy have made. I would surgest anyone who has a metal on metal hip to get a blood test to check the ions in their blood.